The Golden Compass
There's a great new movie out, and I suggest you all go see it!
Ok, perhaps I'm waxing a bit hyperbolic here. I really don't care whether you see it or not, but I think the great sensationalism about this movie among various Christian denominations underscores one of the most significant difference between Orthodox Christianity and all other forms of Christianity.
In a nut-shell both Roman Catholic and Protestant ethics is based on the heresy of Gnosticism, specifically Gnostic Dualism. Basically the idea is that there are two inseparable realms: the physical and the spiritual. These two realms are irreconcilable. The irreconcilability of these two realms leads to the obvious ethical consideration: we punish the physical in order to attain the spiritual. You see that in Protestant and Roman Catholic ethics all the time.
The only problem is, it is a heresy. Self-mortification was decried and confirmed as heretical at one of our Great and Holy Seven Ecumenical Councils. Not only that, but maintaining the concept that the physical and spiritual realms are irreconcilable denies the very heart of Christianity: the Incarnation in the Flesh of God. The fundamental point of our faith is that these two realms are no longer irreconcilable. God Himself became a man to prove that. God Himself became man so that spiritual and the physical may be united in one. It is only through that act that we, cut off from the spiritual here in a physical world, are actually able to attain the spiritual without leaving behind the physical.
The author of these books, and movie, believes that: Christianity is all about "ideological tyranny and the rejection of this world in favor of an idealized afterlife" and as such he is a self-proclaimed atheist. Have you read about Phillip Pullman's god? I'd be an athiest too if I believed God was like that!
The big problem here is not that this guy is an atheist. The big problem is that this guy has so much truth to draw upon to support his atheism!
For hundreds of years Christians have talked about this idealized world, and the rejection of this physical world we are in. But the problem is, that's heresy according to the Orthodox Christian teaching. We are in this world to transform the world, to elevate it to the realm of the ideal, to bring this world closer to God: not through suffering, not through self-inflicted pain, not through tyranny and oppression, but through liberation, through love, through through goodness and mercy. This is what the Orthodox Faith is all about.
Unfortunately, Orthodoxy has been under the yoke of Western teaching for quite some time now. I've actually heard Orthodox priests teach that God wants us to suffer. This concept has crept into the Church through several means: (1) In Orthodox seminaries in Russia in the 19th century most of the teachers were Jesuits; (2) Oft times our new "converts" fail to fully convert from their western ideology when they enter the Orthodox Church.
In these days when we have Muslims practicing and teaching Gnostic Dualism far and wide (for it really is one of the fundamental concerns of their faith that they destroy this world in favor of the next one), it is far more important that Christians return to the truth, return to the roots of Christianity: that God became a man so that we may become like God, not in the world to come, but in THIS world!